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Hangover tips for January 1st

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Always good reminders:

[color:brown]Curing that hangover - the natural way

Julie Beun-Chown, Citizen Special

Published: Saturday, December 30, 2006

January 1, 1987. 3 a.m.

My head is pounding. My mouth is desert dry.

Must. Drink. Water.

Ugh. Tastes funny. But it's wet and I chug it down.

The next morning, I realize why. Two inches of sediment in the glass and a quick glance at the ditch-digging equipment outside my MacLaren Street apartment mean nothing, at first. I stare doggedly, willing the answer to come.

Ah. Burst pipes.

I look at the glass of mud again. I'm going to be sick.

New Year's Day wasn't supposed to be like this, but my girlfriend promised me the "best martinis ever."

I don't know how they rated on the martini scale, but what I do know is that when we ran out of vodka around midnight, we started drinking vermouth. Straight. Nothing like a sweet-wine hangover to remind you how truly stupid you are.

Fortunately, I've moved on, and learned a few things, especially about hangovers.

First, a little chemistry lesson. Hangovers (veisalgia to those who know these things) hurt because as alcohol metabolizes, it depletes the entire alphabet of vitamins including A, B6, C, D and E, and creates a toxin called acetaldehyde.

"If you don't overdo it, your body produces enough acetaldehyde dehydrogenase and glutathione, which help eliminate acetaldehyde from the body and moderate its effect," says Kanata pharmacist Jane Ledas. "But if you drink too much, the liver's stores of glutathione run out, leaving the acetaldehyde to build up."

Meantime, while you're sleeping off what amounts to an overdose of depressants, your body reacts by re-stocking its alcohol-depleted glutamine, which stops the brain from really resting. The overall result is headache, nausea, tremors, anxiety and fatigue.

Then, there's your brand of poison. No matter what Jack Daniels has to say on the point, clear liquor like vodka and gin are kinder to hangovers than whiskey, rum, bourbon and red wine, because they have fewer headache-inducing impurities called congeners.

It may be possible to overcome the worst of your excesses, but your strategy should start well before your first bottle of bubbly.


Before You Go Out

- Consider taking prickly pear extract five hours prior to going out. According to a 2004 clinical study, the fruit contains powerful antioxidants, and has a significant effect on nausea, dry mouth and loss of appetite.

- Eat a solid meal before you get too festive. Because they stick to the stomach lining longer than lean meals, fatty foods and carbohydrates slow the absorption of alcohol, giving the body a chance to metabolize it better. If you're at a cocktail party, zone in on the deep-fried nibblies you usually keep at a distance. What the hell, it's New Year's Eve.

[color:brown]At The Party

- Stick to clear alcohol like vodka and gin or white wine, all of which have fewer congeners. Also, avoid bubbly drinks if you can. Whether it's beer, champagne or rum and Coke, carbonated drinks actually speed the absorption of alcohol.

- Remember water? Turns out that provided it wasn't dug up outside of my old apartment, it's great for managing your alcohol consumption. "Alternate drinking a glass of water and an alcoholic beverage throughout the evening to reduce the detrimental effects," says Ledas. "Alcohol dehydrates, so have two glasses before bed, as well."

[color:brown]After The Party

- At this point in the evening, you may not entirely remember your clever hangover strategies, so make sure you're prepared beforehand. Ledas recommends having a multivitamin, and two ibuprofen or aspirin by your bed. "Both painkillers contain prostaglandin inhibitors, which will decrease the hangover's side effects like nausea, vomiting and headache."

- Look into activated charcoal tablets. Vodka manufacturers use it in filters to purify their product of congeners -- and it works on clearing them from your body, too. Take as directed, because charcoal will also deplete nutrients.


The Next Day

- Once you stagger out of bed, eat a good breakfast. Your head will probably whine about wanting a greasy bacon sandwich. Ignore it and order a poached egg on toast and a banana smoothie made with a teaspoon of olive oil. Eggs contain the amino acid N-acetyl-cysteine, a building block for glutathione; bananas contain a natural antacid and are rich in potassium, which will relax those blood vessels pounding in your head. The olive oil is widely used in detox diets to flush out your liver and gall bladder.

- And coffee? Forget it. Caffeine might fight fatigue, but it's also a diuretic and will torment your already over-stimulated and jittery mind. Instead, opt for ginger tea with a dash of honey. A natural pain reliever, antiseptic and antioxidant with more than a dozen antiviral compounds, traditional herbalists used zingiber offininalis not only to ease nausea, but relieve cold symptoms, motion sickness and bloating.

- Mint tea is another good option. The ancient Greeks were known to place wet mint leaves in a cloth across the forehead to treat headaches. Hundreds of years later, their gentle wisdom was either lost or at least wildly misunderstood: Renaissance Italians treated a sore head by stuffing wet mint up their noses.

- For a severe headache, a little Chinese acupressure could do the trick. Deeply press the Ho Ku point, on the bone at the edge of V-shaped web where the index and thumb meet. Then, use your thumbs to press the top of your neck, in line with your ears.

- Like aspirin, the daisy-like herb feverfew inhibits the release of migraine-causing prostaglandins. It's also an anti-inflammatory and will ease constricted blood vessels. "Before you take it, consult your pharmacist about its profile for any contra-indications," says Ledas.

- Brutal as it sounds, go for a walk before you collapse back into bed. By breathing in through your nose, your produce nitric oxide, which keeps blood vessels open, improves circulation and reduces blood pressure.

Julie Beun-Chown is an Ottawa writer.

© The Ottawa Citizen 2006

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